About Urbanspoon: History & Today

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Urbanspoon (www.urbanspoon.com) is an innovative website that brings together on one page restaurant reviews and comments from food bloggers, newspaper columnists, professional critics and, most important, fellow diners. Most cities in the United States and many in Canada are currently listed with more to come, including locations in Europe and Australia. Spend some time browsing the site; it’s great fun.

It is now the premiere restaurant review site in the US, with more than 1,500,000 registered users and contributors.

The Early Days

Ethan Lowry

Ethan Lowry, one of the cofounders,  wrote on November 10, 2006, in an early incarnation of an Urbanspoon blog,

“My friend Adam [Adam Doppelt and Patrick O’Donnell were the other cogounders] and I recently started Urbanspoon and it seemed like a good idea to have a place to talk about the site, the company, and, most importantly, eating. Thus this blog.

“The idea behind Urbanspoon is to make a truly simple restaurant search site. Most often when we use the web to get info about a restaurant we want the phone number, the location and the menu. Most of us don’t have time or inclination to maintain a food blog, but we do have opinions and recommendations that we share with our friends. Urbanspoon should help with that.

Adam Doppelt

“Apart from the basics, here are a few distinct features:

  1. Restaurant menus – I always have a hard time finding these. So we want to show either a link if the restaurant already has a menu online, or show a scanned menu if they don’t.
  2. Reviews from the critics – we want to offer people a range of opinions in one place. We’re currently looking at sites like the Times, the PI and the Stranger. We also want other people with strong opinions – either on Urbanspoon.com or on their own blogs – to chime in on restaurants, and let the best reviews rise to the top.
  3. Patrick O'Donnell

    Voting – we have a simple up/down voting scheme to measure the popularity of restaurants in town. We wanted something totally transparent, like Rotten Tomatoes but for restaurants.

  4. Personal restaurant lists – people can create and share lists of their favorite restaurants and their own commentary on those restaurants. The idea is that most people don’t take the time to write a whole blog about food, but everyone can share their favorites.

“I hope you like it – we can’t wait to hear what you have to say. And to see where people are eating!”

Subsequent Growth…

Early in 2009, Internet giant IAC acquired Seattle’s Urbanspoon, the online restaurant guide known for its slot-machine style iPhone app. The dealt was kept under wraps until being announced by IAC  in conjunction with its quarterly earnings.

Urbanspoon continues operating as an independent brand, and it will remain in Seattle, an IAC spokeswoman said. No layoffs had  been planned. Even though the purchase price wasn’t disclosed, IAC has promised to limit itself to deals of $100 million or less. Staci Kramer of PaidContent.org estimates the price to be “in the low double-digit millions.”

AC said in the news release that the acquisition will enhance its collection of local Internet brands, which include Citysearch, ServiceMagic and InsiderPages. IAC also has investments in OpenTable and MerchantCircle. Urbanspoon’s aggregated restaurant reviews will be integrated into IAC properties including including Citysearch and InsiderPages, the company said.

Urbanspoon has attracted a large following, with more than three million visitors going to its Web site each month and more than one million “shakes” of its iPhone app every day. Asked whether IAC was more interested in the iPhone app or the Web site business, Lowry said it was a “50-50 proposition.” However, he did say that the immense popularity of the iPhone app “kind of catalyzed it.”

Urbanspoon soon hired Mani Dhillon as the company’s first general manager. Dhillon joins from the online and mobile units of Electronic Arts, experience which he said translates well to the business of fast-growing Urbanspoon which is known for its popular iPhone and iPad mobile restaurant guides. In his new role, Dhillon said he’s most interested in “driving engagement” so that users get more out of the application.

The appointment came two weeks after Urbanspoon co-founder Ethan Lowry left the company. And that news, which was not previously reported on TechFlash, follows the departure of co-founder Adam Doppelt who left the company in May. Urbanspoon’s third co-founder, Patrick O’Donnell, remains.

Urbanspoon Today

Albuquerque Page Today

Well, Ethan, I do like it. I have been a prime contributor since August, 2009, and have written more than 300 reviews of restaurants and dishes in cities such as Albuquerque (225), Santa Fe, Taos, Truth or Consequences, Sedona, Baltimore, Washington DC, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Flagstaff, Miami/Ft.Lauderdale, and Hattiesburg Mississippi (really).


There are 1,687 Albuquerque eating places listed. Some are fantastic; some are downright awful. Some reviews are highly laudatory; some are insulting. In an open system such as this, there are the inevitable waiter-there’s-a-fly-in-my-soup and the-owner-is-a-masochist-and-does-dope-all-day reviews written by disgruntled miscreants and pinheads, who usually write one review and disappear into the void. You will recognize them, have a chuckle, and go on to the serious stuff. No harm, no foul. Never trust the onesies.


Everybody likes to read lists—I provide some right here on this blog. Urbanspoon creates several “best of…” lists: Best Fine Dining, Best Casual Dining, Best Cheap Eats, and the !00 Best Albuquerque Restaurants. “Best” is a highly subjective term in this context. There are no data from which the Urbanspoon algorithms can extract this judgement call. Better that they replace “Best” with “Most Popular.” There are user votes (and other data) available to support such decisions.

Examples (from July 7, 2011):

Best Fine Dining

  1. Zinc
  2. Tucanos Brazilian Grill
  3. Chama River Brewery
  4. Artichoke Cafe
  5. Scalo Northern Italian…

Best Casual Dining

  1. Il Vicino
  2. Shogun Japanese
  3. Saggio’s
  4. Two Fools Tavern
  5. Grove Café & Market

Best Cheap Eats

  1. Frontier Restaurant
  2. Viet Taste
  3. Lumpy’s Burgers
  4. Dion’s
  5. Little Red Hamburger Hut

Frontier? Not even close to the best, but certainly the most popular. This place has fed generations of hungry (and broke) UNM (across the street) students. A highly loyal bunch. In Fine Dining, my favorites—Jennifer James 101 and Lucia—are missing. Too expensive for Albuquerque? Who knows. Take these lists with a grain of salt.

Using the information available on this site will certainly be valuable as an aid to making a wise choice. And you can get free apps for iPhone and Android.

Can’t Decide Where to Eat?

Let Urbanspoon help you find an Albuquerque restaurant. Just click Spin to try your luck. To lock down a neighborhood, cuisine, or price, click the padlock below the wheel.

Search Albuquerque Restaurants


Albuquerque Restaurants on Urbanspoon


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